Saturday, June 5, 2010

Church of All Saints, Yekaterinburg

Photo: Church on Blood in Honor of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land in Yekaterinburg.

The Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land is a Russian Orthodox Church in Yekaterinburg constructed in 2000-2003 on the site where the former Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, Tsarina Alexandra, their children and other members of the household were all executed following the Bolshevik Revolution.

After the February Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were taken prisoners. The Tsar and his family were initially kept at the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo outside St. Petersburg. Kerensky, leader of the provisional government, moved them to the former Governor's mansion in Tobolsk, and later they were transferred to the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

As suspicion of a potential attempt to liberate the Royal family grew, the revolutionaries holding them captive, decided to execute them. On July 17, 1918 the entire imperial family consisting of Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia were taken to the cellar of the Ipatiev House and executed.

The Ipatiev House was owned by a man named Nicholas Ipatiev. The Ural Soviet evacuated him and built high walls around the house, where on April 30, the imperial family was moved. In 1974, Ipatiev House was declared a National Monument, but three years later the Soviet government demolished the house, probably to prevent its attracting foreign visitors.

On September 20, 1990 the Sverdlovsk Soviet handed over the plot to the Russian Orthodox Church for construction of a memorial chapel. After the last Tsar's canonization, the Church planned to build a memorial dedicated to the Tsar family. Construction began in 2000, and the main church was consecrated by patriarchs from all over Russia on 16 June 2003, 85 years after the execution of the Tsar and his family.

The completed complex has two churches, a belfry, a patriarchal annex, and a museum dedicated to the Tsar’s family, covering 29,700 square feet area.

Engagement photo of Alexandra and Nicholas II

Official engagement photo of Alexandra and Nicholas II, April 1894

Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

Image: Portrait of Russian Empress Alexandra Feodorovna by Nikolai Kornilievich Bodarevsky, Tsarskoe Selo, Russia, 1907

Born Alix von Hessen und bei Rhein (6 June 1872 - 17 July 1918), was Empress Consort of Russia as the spouse of Nicholas II, the last Emperor of the Russian Empire. She was born a granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and later given the name Alexandra Feodorovna on admission into the Russian Orthodox Church, which canonized her as Saint Alexandra the Passion Bearer in 2000.

Alexandra, the last Tsarina of Russia, was best-known as one of the most famous royal carriers of the haemophilia disease, as well as for her notorious friendship with the Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, who was an important factor in her life.

The Provisional Government formed after the Russian revolution kept Alexandra, Nicholas II and their children confined in their primary residence, the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, until they were moved to Tobolsk in Siberia in August 1917. On 30 April 1918 they were transferred to the town of Yekaterinburg, where they were imprisoned in the two-story Ipatiev House. Alexandra and her family, including the seriously ill son Alexei, along with several family servants, were executed by firing and bayonets in the basement of the Ipatiev House early in the morning of 17 July 1918, by a detachment of Bolsheviks led by Yakov Yurovsky.

Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin

Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin, often called the ‘Mad Monk’, is perceived as having influenced the latter days of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II, his wife the czarina Alexandra. He attracted the admiration and enmity of the Russian aristocracy and nobility in equal measures. Believed to be a psychic and faith healer by many Russians, it has been claimed that Rasputin caused to discredit the tsarist government of Russia, leading to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917. But contemporary views saw Rasputin in various hues: as a saintly mystic, visionary, holistic healer and prophet, or contrarily, as a debauched religious charlatan. His life and death has been the subject of much speculation and conspiracy theories, mostly based on dubious memoirs, hearsay and legend, including the theory that Rasputin died of a bullet fired by a British secret service agent, who was present at the scene of his murder, stage-managed by his Russian opponents. Popular culture is also much influenced by Rasputin, including various books, films, television episodes, music, etc. The music group Boney M released the semi-biographical song ‘Rasputin’ in 1978, which was a huge hit.

Shilpa Shetty in PETA campaign ad

In March 2006 various sources reported that Indian actress and businesswoman Shilpa Shetty has joined PETA for an advertising campaign against the use of wild animals in circuses. Shetty is a long-time PETA supporter and has assisted the campaign by posing for photographs in a tiger costume.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Iraqi singer Dalli Hadad performing on stage

Photo: Dalli Hadad performing on stage in Jordan

Iraqi singer Dalli Hadad, known for her singling of genres Iraqi music, Arabic pop music, Arabic music and pop music, became famous when she sang the official Iraqi football anthem on winning the 2007 AFC Asian Cup. The 28-year-old Hadad’s first name is also spelled as Dally, Daly and Dali.

In 2002, Dalli Hadad began performing as a singer with an Iraqi folk music band in Baghdad at Festival Babel, and since then she has been performing in Jordan and Syria for the large Iraqi communities present in these countries. Because of moving to Jordan, where she is currently settled (in the Jordanian capital Amman), she had to leave her old band. However, it helped her progress in her career with a change in musical direction. Her debut album ‘Mashtaka Athamk’ and her singles ‘Salam Allah’ and ‘Yemshy Habebe Dala’ (the first song on the album) were well-received.

The basic ingredients of a vegetarian diet

Photo: Fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains; some of the basic ingredients of a vegetarian diet.

Well-planned vegetarian diets are healthy and satisfy all nutritional needs, may offer protection against heart disease, cancer and other diseases, according to some studies.

Pamela Anderson promotes vegetarianism

Photo: Pamela Anderson, a vegetarian, an ardent advocate for animal rights, and an active member of the animal rights organization, ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA), takes part in campaigns for promoting vegetarianism and animal rights. She became a vegetarian in her early teens when she saw her father cleaning an animal he had hunted.

Cobble encrusted with halite from the shore of Dead Sea

Cobble encrusted with halite evaporated from the western shore of the Dead Sea near Ein Gedi.

Halite, commonly known as rock salt, is the mineral form of sodium chloride (common salt or kitchen salt of chemical formula NaCl). Halite forms isometric crystals, typically colorless or white, but may also be light blue, dark blue, purple, pink, red, orange, yellow or gray depending on the amount and type of impurities contained in it. It commonly occurs with other evaporate deposit minerals such as many sulfates, halides, and borates.

Waterfront houses in Istanbul

Photo: The traditional waterfront houses (2007) in the Yeniköy neighborhood lining up the shores on the European side of the Bosphorus in Istanbul.

The Bosphorus (Bosporus or the Istanbul Strait) is a strait that forms part of the boundary between Europe and Asia. It is one of the Turkish Straits along with the Dardanelles. The world's narrowest strait used for international navigation and about 30 km long, it connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, which is connected by the Dardanelles to the Aegean Sea, and thereby to the Mediterranean Sea. The shores of the Bosphorus are thickly populated, with Istanbul alone, with a metropolitan area in excess of 11 million inhabitants, straddles it.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) was a statesman, writer and founder of the Republic of Turkey as well as its first president. Atatürk became famous as a capable military officer during World War I. After the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, he led the Turkish National Movement in the Turkish War of Independence. After establishing a provisional government in Ankara, he defeated the forces sent by the Allies - the initial Allies countries in WWI were the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire, though many others joined them later. With his able leadership, the successful Turkish National Movement campaigns led to the liberation of Turkey. During his presidency, Atatürk introduced many progressive programs aimed at political, economic and cultural reforms of modern Turkey. He sought to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular country.

A pair of white-throated kingfishers

The white-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis), also known as the white-breasted kingfisher or Smyrna kingfisher, is a tree kingfisher. The birds are widely distributed in Eurasia from Bulgaria, Turkey, South Asian countries to the Philippines. Though mostly found near water bodies, it can also be found away from water where it feeds on a wide range of prey including small reptiles, amphibians, crabs, small rodents and even other small birds. During the breeding season they call loudly in the mornings from prominent perches, and even the tops of buildings in urban areas.

Local names of the white-throated kingfisher include: Aspi Chidok (Baluchistan), Dalel (Sindhi), Dao Natu Gophu (Cachar), Kalkaliyo or Safedchati Kalkaliyo (Gujarati), Khandya (Marathi), Kilkila or Kourilla (Hindi), Lakmuka or Buchegadu (Telugu), Masroka (Assamese), Neela Machhrala (Himachal Pradesh), Pilihuduwa (Sinhalese), Ponman (Malayalam), Rajamatsi (Kannada), Sandabuk Machhranga (Bengali), Vichuli (Tamil), Wadda Machhera (Punjabi).

Ursula Andress celebrating her 70th birthday

Photo: Ursula Andress, surrounded by TV crews, on board the Royal Yacht Britannia celebrating her 70th birthday in 2006 in Edinburgh.

Ursula Andress as Bond girl Honey Ryder in Dr. No

The Swiss actress Ursula Andress was voted top film siren by men according to a poll by Radio Times, famous as the Bond girl Honey Ryder in the James Bond movie ‘Dr. No’. A poll of 2,000 people voted for their favorite and the top 50 film sirens, spanning over 75 years of cinema, was conducted by Radio Times, the result of which was declared on 6 April 2010. Interestingly, women voted in favor of Audrey Hepburn, famous for her role as the sophisticated Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Andress became world famous as the shell diver Honey Ryder, the center of desire of James Bond (Sean Connery) in Dr. No (1962), the first Bond movie, based on the 1958 Ian Fleming novel of the same name. In a memorable scene, she rises out of the Caribbean Sea in a white bikini (see photo above). The scene made Andress the ‘quintessential’ Bond girl.

"My entrance in the film wearing the bikini on that beautiful beach made me world famous as the Bond girl", she said. The bikini from this ‘classic moment in cinema and Bond history’ was sold for £35,000 at auction in 2001. In 2003, in a UK Survey by Channel 4, her entrance in Dr. No was voted #1 in ‘the 100 Greatest Sexy Moments’. In 2007, Australian series 20 to 1 ranked her entrance in Dr. No as the #2 Sexiest Movie Moment.

Also, Andress won a 1964 Golden Globe award for New Star of the Year for her performance in Dr. No.

Barry Norman, the film reviewer, said, “You seem to have a penchant for naughty girls, women who play hookers: Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and, of course – top of the heap – Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, although in the demure age in which it was made, just before the Swinging Sixties got under way, the nature of her profession couldn’t be specified… In fact there could easily have been a fourth – the Oscar-winning Jane Fonda in Klute, but instead you chose her for Barbarella and, as an impressionable young man who interviewed her in Rome in 1967 when she was actually wearing that erotic costume, I can well understand why. It was an unnerving experience, as you can imagine. I didn’t know where to look never mind what to say. As interviews go, it was a washout. Memorable, though.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Vasco da Gama lands at Calicut on May 20, 1498

Photo: Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama lands at Calicut (in Kerala, India) on May 20, 1498; photographic reproduction of painting (1880-01) by Ernesto Casanova (born 1845, year of death unknown). Source: US Library of Congress; Illustration for ‘Os Lusíadas by Luís de Camões’, 1880 edition).

Flower-covered Beetle in Montreal Botanical Gardens

Photo: A flower-covered VW Beetle in the greenhouse of Montreal Botanical Gardens

Cobalt blue 1968 Beetle restored

The jeweled one-millionth VW Beetle

1949 Split window VW Beetle, restored

VW Beetle modified in 70s California style

VW Beetle 2000

1995 Mexican Volkswagen Beetle

A 2003 Volkswagen Beetle in Mexico

The Genius of Liberty topping the July Column in Paris

Photo: The Genius of Liberty (1833) by French sculptor Augustin-Alexandre Dumont (1801-1884), topping the July Column at the Place de la Bastille in Paris, sculpted of gilt bronze, height 4 m (13 ft 1 ¼ in). A bronze draft of the same work is also exhibited in the Louvre Museum, Paris.

L'Etoile Perdue by William Bouguereau

Painting: L'Etoile Perdue (Lost Pleiad) by French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau, oil on canvas painting of 1884, dimensions 195.5 x 95 cm located in private collection.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Josephine Baker dancing The Charleston

Photo: Josephine Baker dancing The Charleston at the Folies Bergère, Paris in 1926.
The Charleston, a dance named for the city of Charleston, South Carolina, was popularized in mainstream dance music in the United States by composer/pianist James P. Johnson. It originated in the Broadway show Runnin' Wild and became one of the most popular hits of the decade.

Josephine Baker performs the Danse Banane

Josephine Baker draped in her banana costume

Josephine Baker draped in her most famous banana costume for the Danse Banane from the Folies Bergère production Un Vent de Folie in Paris in 1927.

Annette in her one-piece bathing suit

Annette Kellerman in early 1900s

Annette Kellerman, Diving Venus

Marilyn Monroe on vintage postcard

Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor

Bette Davis and Elizabeth Taylor in late 1981 during a show celebrating Taylor's life

The death of Cleopatra by Guido Cagnacci

Painting: The Death of Cleopatra (1659) by Guido Cagnacci, oil on canvas, 153 cm x 168.5 cm, current location at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, Wien (Vienna).

Diane de Poitiers by François Clouet

Photo: Diane de Poitiers by François Clouet (1571) at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

François Clouet (1510 -1572), son of Jean Clouet, was a French Renaissance miniaturist and painter, particularly known for his detailed portraits of the French ruling family.

Mata Hari on postcard

After the execution of Mata Hari at the age of 41 by the French, innumerable postcards and postal stationery have been issued by many countries to celebrate the life and dance style of the Dutch woman who was praised as the most beautiful woman of her times by many writers and critics. Throughout the world there are many restaurants, clubs, villas, companies, video games, and even computer software named after her. Her head was cut of and mummified and stored along with the heads of 100 criminals guillotined or executed by the French firing squad at the Museum of Anatomy - The Musée d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière - now located on the eighth floor of the Faculty of Medicine, Paris V René Descartes University, 45, rue des Saints-Pères, VIe arrondissement of Paris, France. The rest of her body was also received here and kept there. But both were noticed as missing since time of the Second World War, all other items of the museum remaining in tact.

Mata Hari: the legend and cultural influences

Image: Mata Hari postcard

A number of postcards/view cards and art items popularizing Mata Hari became a fashion. Immediately after her execution by the French, questions rose about the justification of her execution. The idea of an exotic dancer working as a lethal double agent, using her powers of seduction to extract military secrets from her many lovers fired the popular imagination, and made Mata Hari an enduring archetype of the femme fatale.

The Hollywood film, Mata Hari (1931) starring Greta Garbo in the lead role, became the greatest hit of Garbo’s career and the top grosser of MGM that year. The film, though based loosely on real events in the life of Margaretha Zelle, who became famous with her stage name Mata Hari, the plot was largely fictional that appealed to the public appetite for fantasy at the expense of historical facts. The exciting and romantic character in this film, Mata Hari, inspired subsequent generations of storytellers. Consequently, Mata Hari was featured in more films, television stories, and in video games. Many books have been written about Mata Hari, some of them being serious historical and biographical accounts, but many others were highly speculative, deviating too far from the real life of Mata Hari.

There is a very popular statue of Mata Hari in Leeuwarden, the place where she was born in The Netherlands.

Mata Hari performing in 1906

Photo: Mata Hari performing in 1906, wearing only bra and jewelry

Mata Hari brought to the European stage a carefree provocative style of oriental dance, she picked up during her stay in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and her style was an instant hit with the audiences. Her dance style was spectacularly successful and she elevated exotic dance to a more respectable status, thereby breaking new ground in a style of entertainment for which Paris later became world famous. Her free-willed attitude and uninhibited dancing in exotic and revealing clothing made her a very popular woman. She posed for provocative photos and mingled in circles of wealthy and powerful men in politics, royalty, and military, not only in Paris but all other capitals and major cities of European countries. In that period, as most Europeans were unfamiliar with the Dutch East Indies and thought of Mata Hari as exotic, it was assumed her claims of being a Javanese princess of Hindu origin were genuine. By 1910, innumerable imitators of her exotic dance style had arisen in Paris and other European cities.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Mata Hari performing in 1905

Photo: Mata Hari performing in 1905

After returning from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) to the Netherlands with her husband Rudolf John MacLeod, Mata Hari was legally separated in 1902 (divorced in 1906), and in 1903 she moved to Paris, where she performed as a circus horse rider using the name Lady MacLeod. Struggling to earn a livelihood, she also posed as an artist's model.

By 1905, Mata Hari became famous as an exotic dancer, adopting the stage name Mata Hari. She was a contemporary of the famous dancers Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis, who were pioneers of the early modern dance movement, which looked to Egypt, India and other Asian countries for artistic inspiration. Flirtatious and openly flaunting her body, she was an instance success from her debut at the Musée Guimet on 13 March 1905.

Mata Hari's Scrap Book

Photo: The scrapbook of Mata Hari exhibited at the Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands.

Mata Hari, who was accused of as a German spy during the World War I and executed by a French firing squad on 15 October 1917, was born as Margaretha Zelle on 7 August 1876 in Leeuwarden, where the museum is situated and in which there is a 'Mata Hari Room', well-known for research into the life and career of Leeuwarden's world-famous citizen.

Venus de Milo

Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo, currently on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, is an ancient Greek statue that is one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture. Created at some time between 130 and 100 BC, it is believed to depict Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The marble sculpture, slightly larger than life size at 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) high with its arms and original plinth lost, is thought to be the work of Alexandros of Antioch. Earlier, its creation was mistakenly attributed to the sculptor Praxiteles.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mata Hari, exotic dancer and WWI spy

The most famous and controversial spy of World War One was a Dutch woman Margaretha Geertruida Zelle McLeod, popularly known as Mata Hari, who portrayed herself as an exotic dancer. Though many myths and legends have been circulated surrounding her past, Mata Hari was a courtesan. However, she had invented an identity as an exotic dancer from India. She was shot by the French as a spy on October 15, 1917. In 1931 a film loosely based on the life of Mata Hari starred Greta Garbo and popularized her legend.

Mona Lisa: restored version

Mona Lisa: retouched picture

This is a retouched picture; digitally altered from its original version to modify color and remove yellowing.

Mona Lisa: Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo

Mona Lisa (La Gioconda or La Joconde), a sixteen-century portrait painted in oil on a poplar panel in Florence, Italy by Leonardo da Vinci, is owned by the Government of France and is on display at the Louvre museum in Paris under the title Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.

Described by art-lovers as the most famous and iconic painting in the world, Mona Lisa was in obscurity until the mid-nineteenth century when artists of the Symbolist movement began to appreciate it and associated it with ideas of feminine mystique. Walter Pater, in his 1867 essay expressed this view by describing ‘the figure in the painting as a kind of mythic embodiment of eternal femininity’, who is ‘older than the rocks among which she sits’ and who ‘has been dead many times and learned the secrets of the grave.’

Leonardo Da Vinci began painting Mona Lisa in 1503, lingered over it four years and left it unfinished. He continued to work on it for three years after he moved to France and finished it shortly before he died in 1519. He took the painting from Italy to France in 1516 when King François I invited him to work at the Clos Lucé near the king's castle in Amboise. Then, most likely, through the heirs of Leonardo's assistant Salai, the king bought the painting for 4,000 écus and kept it at Château Fontainebleau, where it remained until given to Louis XIV, who moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles. After the French Revolution, it was moved to the Louvre. Napoleon I had it moved to his bedroom in the Tuileries Palace and returned it later to the Louvre. During the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) it was moved from the Louvre to a hiding place elsewhere in France.

Salai as John the Baptist

Painting: Salai as John the Baptist (1514), Louvre

For the painting of John the Baptist, Leonardo da Vinci used his pupil Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno, nicknamed Salai, as a model. Salai entered Leonardo's household in 1490, in a year, Leonardo made a list of his misdemeanors (a thief, a liar, stubborn, and a glutton) after he had made off with money and valuables on at least five occasions and spent a fortune on clothes. Still, Leonardo treated him with great indulgence and Salai lived in his house for the next thirty years. Salai executed a number of paintings under the name of Andrea Salai.

Casa Leonardo, the house where Leonardo da Vinci grew up

Photo: Casa Leonardo, the house where Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have grown up. It is situated alongside Via di Anchiano, 3km north of Vinci, Tuscany, Italy.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the Italian painter, sculptor, architect, cartographer, anatomist, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, geologist, botanist and writer, was born on April 15, 1452, in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci in Florence. He was the illegitimate son of Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine legal notary, and Caterina, a peasant woman. It is believed Leonardo spent his first five years in the hamlet of Anchiano in the home of his mother, which is shown in the above photo.

A Christian Dirce by Henryk Siemiradzki

Painting: ‘A Christian Dirce’ by Henryk Siemiradzki - a Christian woman is martyred in this re-enactment of the myth of Dirce. Siemiradzki (1843-1902) was a Polish Academic painter, known for depictions of scenes from the ancient Greco-Roman world and the New Testament.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (15 December AD 37-9 June AD 68), generally known as Nero, was the fifth and last Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Christian tradition and other historical sources hold Nero as the first major state sponsor of Christian persecution. The non-Christian historian Tacitus describes Nero as extensively torturing and executing Christians after the Fire of Rome in AD 64. Suetonius also mentions Nero persecuting Christians in the Roman Empire. The Christian writer Tertullian (155-230) was the first to call Nero as the first persecutor of Christians, when he wrote, "Examine your records. There you will find that Nero was the first that persecuted this doctrine".

Nero is also accused as the killer of Apostles Peter and Paul. Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (275-339) was the first to write that Apostle Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero. He states that Nero's persecution led to Peter and Paul's deaths, but that Nero did not give any specific orders. However, some other accounts have Paul surviving his two years in Rome and traveling to Hispania. By the 4th century, a number of writers were stating that Nero killed Peter and Paul.